Standards-Based Reforms

Nationally and in Ohio, we press for the full suite of standards-based reforms across the academic curriculum and throughout the K–12 system, including (but not limited to) careful implementation of the Common Core standards (CCSS) for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics as well as rigorous, aligned state assessments and forceful accountability mechanisms at every level.

Resources:

Our many standards-based blog posts are listed below.


Fordham’s experts on standards-based reforms:


Alex Hernandez

Some of us were in the mode, ‘Fix it, fix it! Fix it tomorrow!’ You know when you feel nauseated and you just want it to stop. Our Chief Academic Officer, Tracy Epp, did a good job of slowing us down and saying, ‘I’m not going to take forever, but this is important enough that we are going to take a few months to figure this out. And we are going to bring our team together to generate all kinds of ideas and then we’re going to make our bets.’ And I think she slowed us down and brought more people on board to try to get the bets right.

—Dacia Toll, co-CEO of Achievement First

Achievement First’s deep dive into its academic programs led to the following conclusions:

Key lessons learned

  • Picture of instruction: Our instruction was overly-scaffolded for students. We needed to focus more on student thinking. Students needed to do more heavy lifting and struggle more.
  • Curriculum: Curriculum matters—a lot. It needs to be unapologetically rigorous. You need to buy best-in-class resources or have a robust process for internal and external vetting of what you create.
  • Adult learning: Student thinking will only be as good
  • ...
 
 

Achievement gaps between poor and minority students and their peers are well documented and persistent. For years, data indicate that these students have generally been making slow but steady progress. But now results from the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) cast doubt on whether they remain on an upward trajectory. Nationally, the most recent trends have been flat to downwards for both black and Hispanic students, as well as for those in the bottom 10 percent in achievement.

Does Ohio follow the national trends? In this post, we’ll take a look at the NAEP data for Ohio’s low-income pupils and black students. Though not discussed here, average achievement among Hispanic students also lags behind their peers (their NAEP performance can be seen here). In contrast to Ohio’s state tests, which have changed in recent years, NAEP’s math and reading exams have remained largely consistent and provide a big-picture sense of the direction achievement is moving in Ohio. Keep in mind that NAEP takes “snapshots” of different students every two years; hence, it’s difficult to draw conclusions about what’s causing changes seen in the data. The shift to tablet assessments in 2017 may...

 
 

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released data from the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Given every two years to fourth and eighth graders in math and reading (and other grades and subjects though sometimes on a less frequent basis), NAEP is an important check on how Ohio students achieve against rigorous national standards and compare to their peers in other states. The big takeaway is that student achievement is stuck in neutral across much of the nation. But there’s more to unpack, especially here in Ohio.

Note that the NAEP data are simply descriptive—they give us information about achievement at face value. They can’t tell us with any certainty what’s causing these patterns and trends, including how the shift to tablet-based assessments, economic or demographic trends, and other dynamics that may influence achievement are affecting results. Moreover, other excellent analyses of NAEP data are already out, including a demographically adjusted look at the 2017 results by state. In the days ahead, we’ll take closer looks at  “cohort gains” in Ohio compared to other states—i.e., examining fourth graders results in 2013 and comparing them to 2017 eighth grade results—as well as dig...

 
 

Ohio’s State Board of Education recently voted in favor of recommending that the legislature extend softer graduation requirements to the classes of 2019 and 2020. Such a move would be seriously misguided, since these expectations don’t require students to demonstrate academic mastery or readiness for college or career. Instead, the board suggests that students receive diplomas when they complete various non-academic options, including meeting attendance requirements or accruing a certain number of volunteer or internship hours.

An argument could certainly be made that the state should stick with the graduation requirements currently enshrined in law, which permit students to graduate if they have: achieved a passing cumulative score on seven end-of-course exams, achieved a “remediation-free” ACT or SAT score, or completed career and technical education requirements that include earning an industry recognized credential. After all, more than three-fourths of students in the class of 2018 are on track to graduate, even with these rigorous expectations in place.

However, if the General Assembly decides to make a change, they should consider other options aside from the proposal from the state board. One possibility is the model recently adopted by Indiana, beginning with its class of 2023. In order...

 
 

The state board of education voted today to recommend that the General Assembly extend previously-relaxed graduation requirements for the class of 2018 to the classes of 2019 and 2020.

“Despite consistent feedback that too many Ohio high school graduates aren’t ready for credit bearing college courses and don’t possess the skills necessary to enter the workforce, the state board of education is once again recommending that the legislature walk back the requirements for high school graduation,” said Chad L. Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “What’s most disappointing is that this change is being recommended even though a significant majority of Ohio students have met the more rigorous graduation requirements.”

The most recent data released by the Ohio Department of Education projects that almost 77 percent of students in the class of 2018 are on track to meet graduation requirements.

Rather than earning a diploma by successfully passing end-of-course exams, achieving remediation-free scores on the ACT or SAT, or attaining an industry credential and demonstrating workforce skills, students in the classes of 2019 and 2020 would be able to graduate by completing two of nine tasks from a list which includes...

 
 

In case you missed it during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, Ohio recently announced how students can earn a new endorsement on their high school diplomas. It’s known as the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, and it’s intended to communicate to businesses that a student possesses the professional skills needed for employment.

To earn the seal, students must be deemed proficient[1] in fifteen professional skills, which include punctuality, teamwork and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving. Proficiency is determined by three mentors, who must complete and sign the validation form. Students choose their own mentors, but they must include adults from at least two of three state-prescribed areas: school, work, and community. Examples include teachers, coaches, work supervisors, or faith-based leaders.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has a ton of information about the seal online, including this informational guide for teachers, students, and families. It’s in this document that ODE explains the rationale behind it: “Ohio businesses are seeking talented workers who have solid academic skills such as reading, writing and mathematics, as well as the professional skills required for success in the workplace.”

They are certainly correct about the importance of...

 
 

NOTE: The House Education and Career Readiness Committee of the Ohio General Assembly is hearing opponent testimony this week on House Bill 176, a proposal that we believe would significantly affect the standards, testing, and accountability infrastructure of K-12 education in Ohio. Below is the written testimony that Chad Aldis gave before the committee today.

Thank you, Chair Brenner, Vice Chair Slaby, Ranking Member Fedor and House Education Committee members for giving me the opportunity today to provide testimony in opposition to House Bill 176.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

We’ve long believed that high standards, rigorous assessments, and a strong accountability framework are key components in a quality educational system. For the most part, Ohio excels in each of those areas. The legislature and this committee in particular deserves much of the credit for that and ensuring that every student in our state has the opportunity to receive an excellent education.

House Bill 176, as introduced, would severely weaken...

 
 

To give some added oomph to excellent teacher preparation, the Council of Chief State School Officers launched the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) in 2013. Its purpose is to identify states with track records of innovative teacher preparation and support them in their efforts to implement aggressive and lasting improvements. The network’s first cohort included seven states: Connecticut, Idaho, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington. In 2015, they were joined by eight more states: California, Delaware, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.

A new report examines the progress of those states, mainly in four key areas: stakeholder engagement; licensure reform; preparation program standards, evaluation, and approval; and the use of data to measure success.

In the realm of stakeholder engagement, participating states were required to outline how they would gain the “public and political will to support policy change.” Collaborations between stakeholder groups led several states to recognize the importance of clinical practice for new teachers. For instance, a working group made up of the Louisiana Department of Education, that state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Board of Regents collaborated to create a yearlong classroom residency for new teachers alongside an experienced mentor...

 
 
Marc Tucker

In last week’s blog, I pointed out that, when the first PISA results were released in 2001, students in Germany and the United States both performed at about the average for all countries in the survey, but Germany reacted with what came to be known as “PISA Shock” and the U.S. shrugged. In the years that have gone by since then, Germany has risen sharply in the rankings, while the U.S. remains in the middle, having improved not at all. The Germans, I said, leaped into action while we continued to sleepwalk through history.

That blog elicited two very interesting responses, one from Checker Finn and the other from Mike Petrilli, that I want to discuss in this blog.

This from Checker: “Our ‘PISA shock’ was A Nation at Risk, and the U.S. has been struggling/stumbling/fumbling/striving to fix its schools ever since. PISA may be…one form of education shock…but it’s not the only kind there is.”

And this from Mike: “…I don't think it's fair to argue that we’ve been sleepwalking since 2000. No Child Left Behind, circa 2002, was a very big deal. Perhaps it was wrong-headed, but it was a major shift in national policy. And it...

 
 
Patricia Levesque

Personalized learning presents a vital opportunity to provide rigorous, high-quality instruction while addressing students’ diverse educational experiences and pursuing their unique strengths, interests, and needs. Coupled with flexibility in pace and delivery, personalized learning is grounded in the idea of students progressing when they demonstrate mastery of skills and knowledge, regardless of the time, place, or pace at which such mastery occurs. For some students, it means removing artificial barriers to their engagement with more advanced work. For many others, it means providing tailored support as well as the time and opportunity to close learning gaps rather than leaving them behind year after year.

As interest in personalized learning has grown, so have efforts to take this new educational model to scale. Consider the recent spate of personalized learning initiatives launched in states like Florida, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, and Illinois (to name just a few). ExcelinEd has been excited and proud to be a partner with and supporter of many of these efforts. We see many examples around the country of schools implementing personalized learning—illustrations of the promise that this model holds to improve students’ lives and put each of them on a pathway...

 
 

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